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What's happening at St. Vincent is part of a nationwide trend for hospitals

Expert says medical technology advancements play a big factor
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Posted at 3:48 PM, Sep 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-14 19:31:44-04

CLEVELAND — When St. Vincent Charity Medical Center announced its shift in services Wednesday, it cited several financial factors. Turns out, it’s not alone. News 5 found out that what happened at St. Vincent is part of a larger trend unfolding across the nation.

RELATED: St. Vincent Charity Hospital to end inpatient care, shift focus to holistic health, wellness

J.B. Silvers is the interim co-dean of the Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management. He spoke with News 5 on Wednesday about the financial implications of this transition at St. Vincent.

According to Silvers, more hospitals have closed in Cuyahoga County than the number that remain open right now. It all boils down to the same, simple reason.

“Nobody goes there anymore,” he said. Instead, patients in Northeast Ohio prefer the big teaching hospitals for complicated health issues. They’re more likely to head to their local urgent care for the small stuff. Silvers says this is happening nationwide, leaving hospitals with fewer and fewer patients.

“Running a hospital entails a whole lot of fixed costs,” he said. “You have to have the staff there; you’ve got to pay the lighting bill. You know, all that. And if you don’t have enough people coming through the door you don’t have the revenue.”

We wondered if that means the nation as a whole is getting healthier since fewer are winding up in hospitals. Unfortunately, Silvers says the answer is no.

“The incidence rate of heart disease, diabetes, all the other things that we worry about is a little bit better. But not dramatically. It’s nowhere near enough to explain this.”

Rather than fewer people in need of treatment, Silvers says the way hospitals treat patients has changed. Advanced technology means health issues that used to land you in a hospital bed are now outpatient procedures. When a patient does need a hospital stay, that stay is getting shorter.

It used to be “when you had a baby, you stayed in for a week or two,” he said. “Now you stay for a couple days, maybe. So, all those lost days are gone. Same thing with almost everything else we do.”

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